Bay Area business hopes to win bid to build Trump's border wall

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President Donald Trump’s policies on immigration and border security are having an impact on families across the country, and in the Bay Area, cities are boycotting companies that plan to work on his proposed border wall.

Yet, one Bay Area business owner is hoping to win the bid.

James Flanagan, owner of J.K. Flanagan Construction, is hoping to be chosen as the contractor to build the wall along the country’s southern border.

“I really want to be a part of rebuilding our country and one way of doing that is securing our border,” Flanagan said.

The decision to put in a bid to work on the government contract was more than a business decision for Flanagan. He voted for Trump.

“I just really like his values and what his vision is for our country,” Flanagan said. “It has nothing to do with racism. It has nothing to do with hating anybody.”

His business is based in San Francisco, one of several Bay Area cities boycotting companies like his if they work on the border wall.


For example, Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen was on the forefront of authoring legislation requiring the city to refrain from doing business with any companies that work to construct the wall. The resolution passed unanimously in March 2017.

“A wall that divides people is not reflective of our community’s values,” Guillen said. “Oakland’s tax dollars will not be used in any way to support Trump’s border wall.”

Guillen said Oakland is home to thousands of immigrants and refugees.

“We did a poll of residents in our community and clearly 88% of residents are against the wall,” he added.

Following boycotts in several Bay Area cities, a bill has been introduced to make the blacklist could span the golden state. California Senator Ricard Lara of the Los Angeles area has authored SB-30. The bill would prohibit California form awarding or renewing any contracts with anyone who works on a fence or
barrier along the state’s southern border.

However, dozens of California companies have expressed interested in the border wall and 20 of those companies are based in the Bay Area.

KTVU asked Flanagan what a boycott would mean for his business.

“I’d like to say, where do those tax dollars come from?” he said. “We’re not trying to contract with Iran. We’re talking about contracting with our own federal government so you’re keeping us from freedom of commerce and a way to make a living.”

Councilmember Guillen doesn’t see the bay area boycotts as being discriminatory.

“We want to tell those companies that clearly it’s a wise business decision not to participate in this and to stand on the right side of history,” Guillen said.

Flanagan said he is the son of an immigrant and that his family was sponsored to come to the U.S. from Russia 50 years ago.

“I support legal immigration,” Flanagan said. “I don’t want to see families broken up, but what I want to stop is the criminal activity,” he said.

Flanagan said he submitted a bid for a concrete wall, but he is pushing for it to be made from a composite material that he said is more durable and cost effective. He credits the design to a partner in Florida, Charles Rusillo.

Rusillo created a 2-wall serrated surface system that has a so-called “dead man zone” and the wall would lean 30 degrees south toward Mexico.

“Everything is tied into a computer grid,” Flanagan said. “Every wall section has a serial number. If it does sense any type of activity it will alert a computer system, which will alert the governing authorities so they can respond accordingly.

Flanagan has received backlash for the plan, but looks forward to any opportunity to build a barrier.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security would not comment on how many California companies submitted bids for the wall, but said they received several hundred submittals from across the country. The department plans to have bidders construct prototypes in San Diego to be considered for actual construction in the future.

“I’ve never worked on a border wall anywhere so it would be a first, but it’s going to be a first for everybody though,” Flanagan added.

Third in a series of three reports by KTVU reporter Cristina Rendon about how the Trump administration's immigration policy is affecting the Bay Area and beyond.